“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” Jesus, Jn. 15:18
In the introduction to this blog series, I listed seven reasons why the world system hates Jesus. As I stated previously, I have decided to use these seven provocative statements to summarize the radical life and teachings of Jesus. I’m addressing the first two in this post because they are so closely related.
Let’s be honest, many who profess Christ today have simply not understood the reasons why Jesus was seen as a threat to the world in which he lived. In many evangelical churches you will find that there is mostly an emphasis on his birth, death, and resurrection (e.g. Christian holidays).
This is no doubt a result and lingering effect of Christendom—the merger of church and state which began in the 4th century AD. When “Christians” choose the sword and political power, the life and teachings of Jesus must be spiritualized or ignored altogether, since Jesus doesn’t support it.
Many evangelicals in America have attempted to embrace the world and Christ (1 Jn. 2:15-17). The only way to embrace the world and Christ is to change Christ. It is a Christianity that shapes Jesus to fit an agenda and perverts true discipleship at its core (Matt. 5:38-48; Jn. 13:34-35).
“If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day.” John 12:47-48 NIV
Jesus demands a complete commitment to discipleship (Matt. 16:24; Lk. 5:11; 12:53). It’s not very popular these days to even suggest it, but it’s true. Jesus draws the line in the sand and says, “Follow me.” Because if you don’t follow the authentic Jesus, it has consequences for the age to come.
When the life and teachings of Jesus are stonewalled in order that our faith might fit secular agendas, or to accommodate our sin, the gospel is rendered powerless and ineffective in its purpose to bring all nations (ethnic groups) to confess him as Lord and King (Phil. 2:10; Rev. 3:14-21; 5:9).
Christ’s command was to make disciples of all nations, thus calling them out of the kingdoms of the world and setting them apart into a holy nation called the church (Matt. 28:18-20; 1 Pet. 2:9). Right here. Right now.
Jesus called this radical revolution… the Kingdom of God.
1. Jesus Proclaimed the Kingdom of God
It was the central focus of Jesus’ ministry on the earth. He said the Father had sent him for this purpose (Lk 4:43). It’s the Son of Man in Daniel 7, coming to give the Spirit to those that would receive him.
“The time promised by God has come at last!” The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!” Mk 1:15 NLT
Repent. Jesus is saying that we must stop, turn, and move in the direction of the Kingdom. The Kingdom is what it looks like when God is running the show. And what exactly does that look like? It looks like Jesus loving, serving, and dying for those that crucified him. It always looks like Jesus.
But first we must repent. We must turn from our own way. Turn from the world system of power-over others. Turn from a world of greed, hate, coercion, violence, sexual immorality, and all forms of self-gratification.
It’s called sin. And it misses the mark of God’s good will for the world.
Everyone must regularly repent in order to follow Jesus and join the Kingdom revolution. Why? Because we’re broken. Because the world is not presently what it ought to be. And like gravity, the world system constantly presses against you. Repentance is the way to defy it.
Repentance is an act of defiance against all that opposes God’s reign and rule being known in our lives, and in the world.
Jesus defied religious and political powers with his “good news” about the Kingdom that was already breaking into this present evil age with his arrival. He upset the so-called natural order of things.
Jesus rejected the image of a sword-wielding Messiah, and told Pilate that his Kingdom is “not of this world” (Jn 18:36). He said that Satan is the sinister culprit behind the kingdoms of the world (Jn 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). Therefore, grasping for political power was a fool’s errand (Matt 4:8-10).
The early church believed that ‘Jesus is Lord’, and Caesar is not. That’s good news for those who recognize that this world system is spinning violently out of control, void of life and headed for destruction.
It’s good news for the poor, the sick, and the oppressed. It’s good news for those who see their need for a Savior, and acknowledge that no government or yoga meditation is going to sort out the mess. We need help from above.
It’s good news if you aren’t invested in the power-over methods of the kingdoms of the world. It’s gospel to those who recognize their spiritual poverty, and are willing to repent for new life—eternal life in Christ.
But like those still plugged into The Matrix, this message of the Kingdom of God threatens those dependent upon the world system for life, security, and a sense of purpose. Those who are happy with the way things are, with themselves and the world, aren’t going to like the coming Kingdom.
“The establishment of God’s kingdom means the dethroning of the world’s kingdoms, not in order to replace them with another one of basically the same sort (one that makes its way through superior force of arms), but in order to replace it with one whose power is the power of the servant and whose strength is the strength of love.” N.T. Wright, How God Became King, pg 205
Jesus said you must be “born again” to wake up to the reality of God’s Kingdom at work in the world (Jn 3:3). Only then can you begin to discover the power of the upside-down Kingdom. Repent and believe the good news!
Just be aware that this Kingdom revolution is a threat to those that love the world system. They may hate you for it. They hated Jesus.
He was crucified for proclaiming the Kingdom of God.
2. Jesus Was Not Patriotic
I’m entirely bewildered by how so many evangelicals don’t understand this aspect of Jesus. If you have seriously examined the Kingdom of God, and that Jesus is calling people to leave their former allegiances, there is no way to miss this. Jesus was not patriotic. Boy, this really upsets the applecart.
No matter how you slice it, patriotism goes beyond an “appreciation” for the good of one’s own country and heritage. It is love for a kingdom other than God’s transnational Kingdom. It’s like sharing your bed with a harlot.
Patriotism sets up an idolatrous fortress in the human heart. It demands allegiance—forming thoughts and priorities that are antithetical to the gospel.
“Patriotism” has always been a deceptive term—infused with counterfeit virtue—meant to cover up the idolatrous nationalism that it breeds. It’s tribalism, plain and simple. The gospel simply does not allow it.
Patriotism says, “We are special. We are the good. God is on our side.”
No doubt that Yahweh had to put up with this tribalism in the OT to a certain extent. But even then we can see God working within the ANE framework in order to bring his covenant people out of this worldly kingdom thinking (Gen 12:1-3; 1 Sam 8:7; 1 Chron 22:8; Isa 42:6).
Ultimately, Israel’s story, which is part of the church’s story, teaches us that worldly kingdom power, with all its violence and corruption, fails to bring about God’s redemptive purposes in the world (Ps 11:5; Isa 2:4).
This is the very thing that Jesus was rebuking in his proclamation of the Kingdom. The Kingdom of God doesn’t come about through law or violence, but instead by love of neighbor and enemy (Matt 5:38-48).
If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. Jesus, Matt 5:46-47 NLT
It’s a peaceable Kingdom that transforms the inner man. It moves forward in love. This radical love doesn’t stop at the border. It reaches across imaginary lines on a map. It rejects tribalism and calls for a new world order.
Jesus declared that the new nation that God was forming would be made up of Jews and Gentiles (i.e. multiethnic & multicultural). Therefore, the Kingdom calls for equality and diminishes ethnic boundaries (Lk 4:24-30).
Jesus greatly offended the Jewish people because of this vision of the future. It didn’t jive with their “we’re the greatest nation on the planet” attitude.
They loved their tribalism and hated him for suggesting that they really loved the world more than God and his Kingdom. There was no room in their patriotic hearts for the King of the cosmos and his transnational love.
You know the rest of the story. The Jewish leaders brought it to the attention of the Roman Empire that Jesus proclaimed himself a king and called for a kingdom that was juxtaposed to the euangellion of Caesar.
Jesus was crucified for his treasonous, unpatriotic words and actions against the glory of Rome. He was handed over by his own people in part because they hated him for not sharing their love of ‘God and country’.
The world will hate those who follow in his steps.
D.D. Flowers, 2013.
Read the next post: 3. Jesus Was Not Religious.